Bihar’s new police bill explained and why it has evoked protests
The Bihar Special Armed Police Bill, 2021 has triggered strong protest from the Opposition, which is demanding its withdrawal due to “unbridled powers to the police to carry out raids and arrests without warrant”, while the government terms it the need of the hour in view of growing needs to safeguard important installations.
Once enacted, the Bihar Military Police will be called Bihar Special Armed Police and it will give such powers to the Bihar Special Armed Police that the Opposition feels would usher in ‘police raj’. There have been widespread protests against it both within the House and outside. Police had to resort to lathi-charge to rein in protesting RJD workers in the state capital. However, the Opposition has declared that it would not accept anything less than the withdrawal of the ‘black law’. Here are the highlights of the bill:
Why is the bill necessary?
As per the preamble says, the Bihar Police Act 2007 was published in the official gazette on March 30 2007. Prior to that police services of the state were governed by the Police Act, 1861 and the rules framed there under and Bihar Military Police in the State was governed by Bengal Military Police Act, 1892. Bihar, being a rapidly developing state, requires an armed police force with multi-domain expertise to meet requirements of industrial security, security of vital installations, airports, metro rail etc in larger interest of the State. The internal security of Bihar needs to be strengthened through a dedicated, well trained and fully equipped armed police force of the state. Keeping in view the role of Bihar Military Police and its distinct organizational structure, it is necessary that its separate identity should continue to be maintained as a Special Armed Police to achieve the above objectives; Therefore, it is expedient to make provision for the constitution, organized development and better regulation of a multi-domain Special Armed Police Force.
What will it do?
The bill says it will be for maintenance of public order, combating extremism, ensuring the better protection and security of specified establishments in such manner as may be notified and perform such other duties, as may be notified. The Special Armed Police shall be constituted into one or more Battalions in such manner and for such period as may be prescribed. The general superintendence of the Special Armed Police shall vest in and be exercised by the Government. The command, supervision and administration 19 of the Special Armed Police shall vest in the Director General of Police, Bihar. The Government shall appoint to the Special Armed Police such number of Inspectors General, Deputy Inspectors General, Commandants and such other rank police officers, as may be notified.
Power to arrest without warrant
Any Special Armed Police Officer, while being entrusted with the security of specified establishment may without any order from a Magistrate and without a warrant, arrest any person who voluntarily causes hurt to, or attempts voluntarily to cause hurt to, or wrongfully restrains or attempts wrongfully to restrain or assaults, threatens to assault, or uses, or threatens or attempts to use, criminal force to any employee of such specified establishment, or to him or any Special Armed Police Officer, in discharge of his duty as such employee or in execution of his duty as such Special Armed Police Officer, as the case may be, or with intent to prevent or to deter him from discharging his duty as such Special Armed Police Officer, or in 20 consequence of anything done or attempted to be done by him in the lawful discharge of his duty as such Special Armed Police Officer
Arrests on suspicion
The officer can arrest any person who has been concerned in, or against whom a reasonable suspicion exists of his having been concerned in, or who is found taking precautions to conceal his presence under circumstances which afford reason to believe that he is taking such precautions with a view to committing, a cognizable offence which relates to property belonging to, or in the premises of, any such specified establishment. Arrests can also take place if any person who commits or attempts to commit a cognizable offence which involves or which is likely to involve danger to the life of any person engaged in carrying on any work relating to any specified establishment. If any person is found trespassing on the premises of any specified establishment, he may, without prejudice to any other proceedings which may be taken against him, be removed from such premises by any Special Armed Police Officer.
Power to search without warrant
Whenever any Special Armed Police Officer, not below the notified rank, has reason to believe that any offence has been or is being committed and that a search warrant cannot be obtained without affording the offender an opportunity of escaping or of concealing evidence of the offence, he may detain the offender and search his person and belongings forthwith and, if he thinks proper, arrest any person whom he has reason to believe to have committed the offence. The provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 relating to searches under that Code shall, so far as may be, apply to searches under this section.
Procedure to be followed after arrest
Any Special Armed Police Officer making an arrest under this Act, shall, without unnecessary delay, make over the person so arrested to a police officer, or, in the absence of a police officer, take such person or cause him to be taken to the nearest police station together with a report of the circumstances occasioning the arrest.
Privileges of Senior Officers of Special Armed Police
The Director General/Additional Director General/such other rank police officer appointed as head of the Special Armed Police and other police officers including Inspectors General, Deputy Inspectors General, Commandants and Deputy Commandants of the Special Armed Police shall be entitled to all the privileges which a police officer has under the Bihar Police Act, 2007, the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 and any other enactment for the time being in force.
Procedure for court taking cognizance of offence
No court shall take cognizance of any offence under this Act when the accused person is a special armed police officer except on a report in writing of the facts constituting such offence and with the previous sanction of an officer authorised by the Government in this behalf.
Protection of Special Armed Police
In any suit or proceedings against any member of the Special Armed Police for any act done by him in pursuance of an order of a competent authority, it shall be lawful for him to plead that such act was done by him under the authority of such order.
Rules to be laid before the House
Every rule framed under this Act shall be published in the Gazette. (b) All rules made by the State Government under this Act shall be laid as soon as may be after they are made, before each house of the State Legislature while it is in session, for a total period of thirty days, which may be comprised in one session or more successive sessions. If the State Legislature agrees to modify the rule or the legislature agrees that the rule should not be made, the rule shall thereafter have effect only in such modified form or be of no effect, as the case may be; So however that, any such modification or annulment shall be, without prejudice to the validity of anything done under that rule.
Provisions of this Act to override other laws
The provisions of this Act shall have overriding effect, notwithstanding anything inconsistent therewith contained in any other law for the time being in force or any instrument having effect by virtue of any such law. References in any Act, rule, notification or order to the Bengal Military Police Act, 1892 shall, on the commencement of this Act, be construed as reference to the Bihar Special Armed Police Act, 2021.